International Writers Magazine:
Michael Chacko Daniels
your beloved Bell Avenue in Chicago, I say, as billboards
beckon through fog to far planetary corners.
Her brown eyes fly.
Are they sweeping over Americas middle on to ancestral Polish
lands? I wonder.
exotic odyssey tantalizes. We file past the radiant tourists of St.
Francis at Union Square, re-arrange our decades old, thrift store
decadence, waft through Macys cathedral to the aspiring gobble
village, brush chameleon fabrics, opulent scents from a thousand distant
places conceived here in San Francisco.
My adjustable adman Dad knew such legerdemain: bootstrapping out of
unemployment, he mediated a thousand glimpses of bright new tomorrows,
mainly of American vintage, for several Indian newspapers published
from sun-washed Bombay, Bangalore, Calcutta, and Trivandrum, beguiling
a medieval country, still unsure of yesterday, to burst forth into the
But here, now in the 1980's, amidst Macys distillations of everywhere-nowhere
elegance, I feel a painful reflux of here-there dissonance.
Was this affliction designed to torment media wizards offspring?
Past her favorite perfumes she tests, declines, tests again
down we roll on the down escalator to emerge into Macys bright,
new, Arabian Nights caravan heart.
I point to the copper, brass, and burnt-dust obstreperous forms from
India heavy, uneven, rough. Unburnished pre-media beauty
clashes with the artful store designers conjured interior,
I say. Think: dusty, sari-clad women from Rajasthans desert
lands huddling in a San Francisco Pacific Heights drawing room.
I imagine Kipling roar.
Listening to the wizards sons words, her eyes question:
What are they?
Was she struggling to demystify?
No, no, I decide; its only her Bell Avenue, Chicago-style, down-to-earth
inquisitiveness about things put out for buying and selling.
Pots! I explain. Mudkas! Beautiful, arent they?
Western Indias oldey-goldey. For storing and transporting food.
This ones for milk.
My, arent they pretty potkas!
Hey, Kipling, smile at the East-West word.
But look! she flips. The killer prices!
I want to say, Bell Avenue strikes again. Alas! You cant bargain
here over prices the way your mother taught you before our American
present brushed away your Polish past; nor can I, as I did daily at
Bombays bustling fish-meat-vegetable bazaar.
But I quash the words.
Instead, doffing the media wizards hat, I do a factotum turn.
These, the small sign warns, are for decorative use only.
Is it possible we miss the point here? she retorts. Is
there any fun in the buying, if all theres in the selling is original,
or designated, use? Its misleading. Right? Like original sin!
Unwind the mystery; minus wizardry, please!
But what will undo marketing chicanery? The magic in the present
What lies in the unknown future crock. This same principle rules
the stary sky ad in your Chicago Bell Avenue ghetto, the Cathedral Schools
New-To-You Thrift Store opposite Cala Foods at Hyde & Pine, and
Macys of St. Francis at Union Square.
She looks through me, points at the burnt earth transplant. That
ones special. You must learn to believe. Place it under my Polish
Matka Boska Czestochowa. Put a picture of Pope John Paul II in potka-mudka.
If one holy picture wont work, the other will.
I cart a mudka-potka home.
Start the countdown, she orders.
What mystery unfolds?
A thousand images of yesterday? Or of tomorrow?
A new American passage through this ancient form?
A week later, the mail delivers: Congratulations from Macys
. . . This letter will entitle you and a guest to attend
A LITTLE ROMANCE starring Laurence Olivier and Sally Kellerman
. . . .
She says, What did I tell you?
And about two decades later, on March 1, 2007, Macys of San Francisco
Imagines India with a 30-foot Lord Ganesh welcoming visitors at its
Union Square entrance.
She says, See!
Oh, dear, dear Macys, on the road to and from you, bit by little
bit, decade by decade, you round out our world.
© Michael Daniels May 2009
About the Author: Michael Chacko Daniels (GJ, Medill, Northwestern University),
former community worker and clown, grew up in India. He lives and
works in San Francisco. His short stories have appeared in dragonfire,
Cricket Online Review, Denver Syntax, Apollo's Lyre, Indelible Kitchen,
and SHALLA Magazine. Books: Split in Two (2004), Anything
Out of Place Is Dirt (2004), and That Damn Romantic Fool (2005).
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